Semma brings Indian restaurants in NYC back into the Michelin Star fold

This story was originally published in TravelDine India by Vernika Awal.

Semma, hot off the stable of the increasingly equitable Unapologetic Foods, offers a very rooted yet deftly refined take on recipes from South India.

What, exactly, are the Michelin Stars worth in an increasingly democratised world of food commentaries? The answer will vary depending on whom you ask. But, truth be told, there is no denying that Michelin Stars still hold a strong equity. It enables a restaurant to be tagged as one among the finest — and if not, an experience worth trying at the very least. This particularly means a lot when you step outside of a country and represent the latter’s cuisine. Semma, the recently awarded South Indian restaurant by Unapologetic Foods, is perhaps one of the best examples of this.

As many reports were quick to point soon after Michelin’s official 2022 guide was released, detailing the best restaurants in New York City, Semma brought India back to the Michelin map for NYC this year. Announced earlier this month, the eatery’s entry validates its approach of bringing some of the most eternal recipes from the southern kitchens of India.

With this, Semma achieves two things in one move. First, its presence in the list instantly makes it an ambassador for Indian cuisines, which have seen increasing amounts of worldwide interest from around the world over the recent years. The second one, however, is more important — one look at the food philosophy of Semma tells you that their servings hero secrets of the home kitchen.

Helmed by Chef Vijay Kumar, who hails from Tamil Nadu, Semma’s menu is recognisable for those from India, and yet, not deeply explored. For instance, the Semma menu’s flagship offering is the Kanyakumari Nandu Masala — made with dungeness crabs sourced locally from the US West Coast. Priced at a lofty $125 and only as a meal for two, and in limited quantities and mostly upon pre-order requests, the flagship dish shows you how Semma approaches its offering — that of home, and yet, with all the tinkerbells of a fine dining spread.

Semma serves Pesarattu — a crushed lentil dosa with a red chutney, Gunpowder, and mirch ka salan. These three seemingly everyday entrants in the menu are, in turn, joined by not-so-everyday items, such as Chettinad maan — based on the venison shank, and Goanese oxtail.

Such composition of the menu is what underlines the importance of the feat, for it also recognises the sheer variety and expanse of the Indian cuisine. It shows the ample room to expand, experiment, and most importantly, learn the range of recipes that define cuisines and sub-cuisines in India. It is, therefore, suitable that the solitary representative for India in New York City’s culinary landscape for the year to come is Semma.

The chain, Unapologetic Foods, has also become an increasingly equitable brand for food chains around the world. Helmed by chefs Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya, Unapologetic Foods has also recently been at the centre of a lasting tribute — that of the life of celebrated chef, Floyd Cardoz, with The Bombay Canteen in India.

At a time when home chefs in India are witnessing a renaissance ever since the pandemic spurred an adoption spree of home-sourced food, Chef Kumar’s creations at the award-winning Semma goes hand in hand with the present trend around the world.

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